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30 Jan 2023

Why top employers will be acting now on the Miscarriage Leave Bill

If the Bill is successful, three days paid leave for employees who suffer miscarriage will become law sometime in 2024

Why top employers will be acting now on the Miscarriage Leave Bill.jpg 1

It is estimated that one in five pregnancies ends in a miscarriage. The loss of a pregnancy is a distressing and traumatic experience, but often remains private, especially at work.

Despite this, if the loss of the pregnancy occurs at or before 24 weeks, neither parent has any legal entitlement to any form of leave of absence or pay following their loss. After 24 weeks, the loss of a pregnancy is considered a stillbirth and, accordingly, parents will qualify for two weeks statutory parental bereavement leave, plus maternity or paternity leave and pay.

This has most recently been highlighted by the heart wrenching story of Keeley Lengthorn, who last year lost her unborn son George at 22.5 weeks, just days before she would have been entitled to statutory leave.

Mental and physical recovery

Grieving parents often have no alternative than to take sick leave or use their holiday entitlement to allow them not only to grieve but, for the mother, to recover physically.

To try to remedy this position, the Miscarriage Leave Bill has been introduced by MP Angela Crawley. The Bill proposes to implement a statutory right to three days’ paid leave for both parents who have experienced the loss of a pregnancy at any stage before 24 weeks. Three days may not be much compared with what parents experience, but it is a small gesture recognising and affirming their grief and allowing them to pause and begin to adjust.

The Bill is due for its second reading in March 2023 and its progress can be followed here. If the Bill is successful, any legislation is unlikely to be introduced before mid-2024 at the earliest.

So, as employees are increasingly prioritising their own welfare over salary or career progression, and as employers put employee wellbeing at the top of their priority list, what can you do to provide further support?

Steps employers can take

Act now – While employees are not yet legally entitled to miscarriage bereavement leave, the Bill demonstrates what is likely to be considered a reasonable minimum. There is nothing to stop employers adopting the proposals made (and more) ahead of time.

Signpost benefits – Ensure employees are aware of the support already available, such as an existing employee assistance programme, private counselling, specialist bereavement support or other resources.

And consider new ones – Life stage benefits have become increasingly popular over recent years and some of these can provide personalised support and assistance adjusted to what the employee is experiencing. Check your offering remains up to date and competitive and provides support when it matters most.

Consider terminology – Make sure that any wording used does not have the potential to cause further distress. Using words such as ‘maternity’ or ‘parental’ bereavement leave may have a triggering effect.

Review policies – Consider offering not only time off after a bereavement, but perhaps also flexible working arrangements, a phased return or other allowances and adaptations for when the individual is ready to start working again. Make sure policies and training are inclusive and not centred solely on women or what is considered the typical or nuclear family.

The lack of recognition of what is an immensely sad and distressing time often exacerbates stress and anxiety for parents or intended parents. With many potential employees researching the benefits a company offers before accepting a role, savvy and empathetic employers will not wait to be told before actioning these important steps.

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